By Amanda Reed
Pittsburgh Current Staff Writer
Ruth Root’s newest body of work, part of Carnegie Museum of Art’s Forum series, looks like the artistic representation of a Cyndi Lauper song: hot-pink fabric printed with photos of art supplies and women in personal saunas interplays with a section of gray. Diagonal purple stripes mingle with spray painted black-and-white dots, while pairs of eyes emerge from purple fabric, printed with red lines. The paintings are punchy and playful, mixing modern geometric shapes with powerful imagery.
Although these patterned, fabric-incorporated works differ from Root’s older paintings, which use colored blocks of enamel on aluminum, Root says her older influences can be found in the new creations.
“I have my own paintings within these paintings,” she said during the opening presentation on Thursday, April 18.
Ruth Root, the 81st installment of CMOA’s Forum contemporary art series, runs from now until Aug. 25. Her first solo presentation at a major American museum, these new, large-scale works take inspiration from news media, art history and CMOA’s collection of artworks and design objects.
According to Eric Crosby, CMOA acting co-director and senior curator of modern and contemporary art, the works ask the viewer to consider composition, space and how a painting interacts with the wall it hangs on.
“They offer this pure visual experience where it’s just you and the thing,” he says.
That visual experience extends out of Root’s exhibit into the entire museum with an “interactive scavenger hunt.” Called “Looking and Drawing with Ruth Root,” the free guides are inspired by Root’s exploration into the CMOA collection, and ask viewers to tally how many times they see a dog in a painting or try their hand at copying an artist’s’ signature.
According to Hannah Turpin, curatorial assistant for modern and contemporary art and photography, the guide encourages people of all ages to find joy in art.
“These aren’t challenging prompts in the way that they demand previous knowledge of education or painting but just easy ways for you to kind of get engaged and have fun with paintings,” she says.
Much like what the guide promotes, Turpin says that Root’s works are approachable, accessible and provide many opportunities for interpretation.
“She’s just an incredibly warm and inviting person, and I found her works to be very much the same way,” she says.
With their permutative nature, Root’s new works create a whimsical body of work that calls to the past and comments on the present.
“Once you come into the show, you enter the world of the show,” Root says.